Oral Piercing - Healing Tips & Risk Awareness


Aftercare is a simple procedure in the care of any body piercing from simple ear piercings to the extreme piercings, but you have to remember some common points with all aftercare instructions. Many people out there, usually forgets half of what they are told in the studio after getting a piercing, partly due to the excitement of the piercing and partly from the rush of having just got what they wanted for a while. Regardless of the piercing you have received, using aftercare products wisely is the best route.

Over using soaps, lotions and/or cleaners does nothing to aid the piercing to heal, in fact it just irritates the tissue and prolongs the healing process. This is not cool! Generally cleaning a new piercing once or twice a day is plenty, cleaning a piercing any more than this will lead to the tissue becoming irritated and causing secondary reactions to the cleaning products.

While piercing the tongue, lip, or cheek may be attractive to some, there are a number of health-related risks associated with oral piercing, including:

Infections. The wound created by piercing, the vast amount of bacteria in the mouth, and the introduction of additional bacteria from handling the jewelry all work to increase the risk of infections. Transmission of diseases. Oral piercing is a potential risk factor for the transmission of herpes simplex virus and hepatitis B and C.

Endocarditis. Because of the wound created by the piercing, there's a chance that bacteria could enter the bloodstream and lead to the development of endocarditis - an inflammation of the heart or its valves - in certain people with underlying (and often undiagnosed and without symptoms) heart problems.

Nerve damage/prolonged bleeding. Numbness or loss of sensation at the site of the piercing or movement problems (for pierced tongues) can occur if nerves have been damaged. If blood vessels are punctured, prolonged bleeding can occur. Tongue swelling following piercing can be severe enough to block the airway and make breathing difficult.

Gum disease. People with oral piercings - especially long-stem tongue jewelry (barbells) - have a greater risk of gum disease than those without oral piercings. The jewelry can come into contact with gum tissue causing injury as well as a recession of the gum tissue, which can lead to loose teeth and tooth loss.

Damage to teeth. Teeth that come into contact with mouth jewelry can chip or crack. One study in a dental journal reported that 47% of people wearing barbell tongue jewelry for 4 or more years had at least one chipped tooth.
Difficulties in daily oral functions. Tongue piercing can result in difficulty chewing and swallowing food and speaking clearly. This is because the jewelry stimulates an excessive production of saliva. Temporary or permanent drooling is another consequence of increased saliva production. Taste can also be altered.

Allergic reaction to metal. A hypersensitivity reaction - called allergic contact dermatitis - to the metal in the jewelry can occur in susceptible people.

Jewelry aspiration. Jewelry that becomes loose in the mouth can become a choking hazard and, if swallowed, can result in injury to the digestive track or lungs.

If you already have piercings:
- Contact your dentist or physician immediately if you have any signs of infection—swelling, pain, fever, chills, shaking or a red-streaked appearance around the site of the piercing.
- Keep the piercing site clean and free of any matter that may collect on the jewelry by using a mouth rinse after every meal.
- Try to avoid clicking the jewelry against teeth and avoid stress on the piercing. Be gentle and aware of the jewelry’s movement when talking and chewing.
- Check the tightness of your jewelry periodically (with clean hands). This can help prevent you from swallowing or choking if the jewelry becomes dislodged.

- When taking part in sports, remove the jewelry and protect your mouth with a mouth guard.
- See your dentist regularly, and remember to brush twice a day and floss daily.

The potential for intra-oral damage from piercings can be dramatically reduced by wearing appropriate jewelry. Complications may result if the jewelry is inappropriately sized, improperly placed, or poorly manufactured. Things to consider:

Jewelry must be the correct style for the anatomy and piercing placement;
Jewelry must be accurately sized to the area. The longer jewelry that allows for initial swelling must be replaced with a shorter piece after swelling has dissipated to reduce the chance of harm to the teeth and oral structures.
Balls made of polymer rather than metal can be worn on tongue barbells to minimize the risk of damage to the teeth. Check that threaded ends are on securely. Tighten them daily to insure that your jewelry stays in place.
Wearing a smaller ball on the underside of the tongue helps to reduce jewelry contact with the sublingual portion of the oral cavity.
Playing with oral jewelry is the most frequent cause of tooth and gum damage and should be avoided.